MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be on red alert nationwide beginning Saturday ahead of the visit of Pope Francis.
A red alert means all soldiers will be stationed at their posts and ready to be tapped if an emergency arises. Leaves and passes will be revoked.
Around 100 snipers will be stationed in several areas, AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.
“Imagine the Pope going to Roxas Boulevard, just count the buildings there,” he said.
He added: “We don’t want to give the enemies of the state the chance to take advantage of the situation.”
This does not mean there is already a threat to the Pope, he said.
“Not necessarily. There are many activities. By our count, it’s about 44 separate activities,” he added.
Around 7,000 soldiers and 5,000 reservists will be tapped to secure Pope Francis’ visit, which begins on January 15. The number will be increased to 10,000 soldiers and 7,000 reservists if there is a need.
The military deployment will strengthen the 20,000 personnel to be deployed by the Philippine National Police.
At the moment, the only challenge he sees surfacing is the temperament of the crowd.
Asked on the possibility of a stampede, he said: “Yes of course. In Wowowee, there was a stampede,” he said, referring to the now defunct TV variety show.